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Bad Science

by Ben Goldacre

Bad Science is a book by Ben Goldacre, criticizing mainstream media reporting on health and science issues. Published by Fourth Estate in September 2008, the book contains extended and revised versions of many of his Guardian columns.

It had been given goods reviews by the British Medical Journal, the Daily Telegraph and reached the top 10 bestseller list for Amazon Books. Most reviews have been positive but some others have also been critical. There is a forum on his website with a section dedicated to corrections. In 2009 the book was shortlisted for The BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes..



A brief introduction (by Goldacre) touching on subjects covered by subsequent chapters. It bemoans the widespread lack of understanding of evidence-based science.

Chapter 1: Matter

Detoxification methods (the Aqua Detox, ear candles etc.) that can easily be shown to be bogus by simple experiments. Discusses the "detox phenomenon." Touches on purification rituals.

Ben Goldacre interview

>>>>> Video <<<<<

Chapter 2: Brain Gym

The adsurdity of claims for Brain Gym, a programme of specific physical exercises that its commercial promoters claim can create new pathways in the brain. The uncritical adoption of this programme by the sections of the British school system is derided.

Chapter 3: The Progenium XY Complex

On cosmetics, and the misleading and pseudoscientific claims by their manufacturers.

Chapter 4: Homeopathy

Homeopathy is used to prompt a discussion of the nature of scientific evidence, with reference to the placebo effect, regression to the mean, and the importance of blind testing and randomisation in the design of fair clinical trials. Having concluded that homeopathic pills have been shown to work no better than placebo pills, the author suggests homeopathy may still have psychological benefits which could be the subject of further study.

Chapter 5: The Placebo Effect

Examples of the amazing power of the mind over pain, anxiety and depression are presented with studies showing how higher prices, fancy packaging, theatrical procedures and a confident attitude in the doctor all contribute to the relief of symptoms. In patients with no specific diagnosed condition, even a fake diagnosis and prognosis with no other treatment helps recovery, but ethical and time constraints usually prevent doctors from giving this reassurance. Exploiting the placebo effect is presented as possibly justifiable if used in conjunction with effective conventional treatments. The author links its use by alternative medicine practitioners with the diversion of patients away from effective treatments and the undermining of public health campaigns on AIDS and malaria.

Chapter 6: The Nonsense du Jour

Chapter 7: Dr Gillian McKeith PhD

Chapter 8: 'Pill Solves Complex Social Problem'

Chapter 9: Professor Patrick Holford

Chapter 10: Is Mainstream Medicine Evil?

Chapter 11: How the Media Promote the Public Misunderstanding of Science

Chapter 12: Why Clever People Believe Stupid Things

Chapter 13: Bad Stats

Chapter 14: Health Scares

Chapter 15: The Media's MMR Hoax

And Another Thing

Further Reading and Acknowledgements



Oddly for a book of this nature, the hardback and first paperback editions did not include an index. Several indexes were prepared by bloggers, of which the most useful is the one prepared by Oliblog. The latest paperback issue includes a full index.

Previously unpublished chapter: The Doctor Will Sue You Now

Further to the release of this book a resolution of the legal status of one of the chapters has come about since Goldacre won a libel case filed against him by Matthias Rath. The post dated 9th April 2009 states: This is the “missing chapter” about vitamin pill salesman Matthias Rath. Sadly I was unable to write about him at the time that book was initially published, as he was suing my ass in the High Court.

The full chapter has been made universally available under a Creative Commons license with the title The Doctor Will Sue You Now. Additionally, this full chapter is included in the New Paperback Edition.

In this chapter the author explains its origin, its reasons for being excluded and describes his personal reasons and tribulations in the said legal resolution. Being his personal point of view it contains an account of his anger at being gagged due to legal/financial restrictions, his support by the Guardian (who he writes for) and his now encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject in question.

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